Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries prepare to open

In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals called trichomes, are a few weeks away from harvest at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.

CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health has appealed a decision to add severe pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in a case that could greatly expand access to drug in the state.

The appeal filed Thursday comes weeks after a Cook County judge ordered the health department to add "intractable pain," or severe and constant pain with no cure, to the list of more than 40 qualifying medical conditions.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Ann Mednick of Rolling Meadows. The 58-year-old petitioned the agency to add the condition, saying medical marijuana would have fewer side effects to treat pain for sacroiliac joint dysfunction and osteoarthritis than the opioids she's been prescribed.

"Opioids have wreaked havoc on my life and I want nothing to do with them," she wrote in a Friday opinion piece for the Chicago Sun-Times . "Cannabis can ease pain without any of those side effects."

Public Health Director Nirav Shah denied Mednick's request last year, saying there was a "lack of high-quality data" from clinical trials to add the condition to the list. But Cook County Circuit Judge Raymond Mitchell called Nirav's reasoning "clearly erroneous," citing medical journals that reviewed 45 clinical studies looking at medical marijuana's effect on treating chronic pain.

Keep reading for FREE!
Enjoy more articles by signing up or logging in. No credit card required.

Health department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold declined to comment Friday, citing pending litigation.

The issue has come up elsewhere.

Five states list "intractable pain" as a qualification for a medical card: Arkansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia. In California, which has one of the nation's most expansive medical marijuana programs, the drug can be prescribed to any debilitating illness a physician sees fit.

Illinois first approved a medical marijuana pilot program in 2013. Last year, post-traumatic stress disorder was added to the list of qualifying conditions.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.